Swimmer Ryan Kuester jingle-jangled as he walked down the aisle at city hall last week to be recognized by city council — for the second time in less than two years.
The sound everyone heard was his two gold medals clanking together, earned with stellar performances in Athens at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games.
“It’s not that often that we get to have an Olympian in chambers who has competed in Greece,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz to welcome Kuester.
Last time the 22-year-old swimmer was in council chambers, members of council warmly wished him luck as he headed off to compete at the Special Olympics.
He had just returned to Chilliwack from the nationals with three gold medals.
“We were hoping you would come home with something this time, but two gold medals was just incredible,” Gaetz said last Tuesday.
The mayor remembered hearing the news from Greece that Kuester had taken gold, and her first thought was: “He’s from Chilliwack!”
Intensive preparations for the national and the world competitions meant five days a week training in the pool, and lots of running, explained Kuester.
He landed in Greece with butterflies in his stomach, and it was blazingly hot.
During the final swim meet, he was “shaking like a leaf” as he got into the pool for the race, he said.
His amazing race times earned him gold medals in both the freestyle and backstroke categories.
“I remember thinking, ‘This shouldn’t be happening. I shouldn’t get two golds.'”
Gaetz called the results “fantastic” and praised the strong support offered to the local athlete by his coach, Jacques Lemieux, and family members, while presenting him with a certificate of appreciation and a water bottle.
Kuester told council he was cognizant of the fact that he was representing B.C. and Chilliwack, as well as Canada, while competing at the Worlds.
“And I did it to the best of my ability.”